Tina Fey’s character in the sitcom 30 Rock is an at times uncomfortable portrayal of an archetype that many people identify with: white, female, and straight, as well as smart, witty, and awkward. How do we understand Liz Lemon’s self-presentation in the show, as well as how the characters around her interact with her? Does her character have implications for the people who see part of themselves in her? What is Liz Lemon’s legacy? Specifically, I’m interested in how Liz Lemon deals with issues of privilege, especially in terms of the racial humor the show occasionally incorporates, as well as her interactions with her boss Jack and the power dynamic and competition between them.
From my admittedly limited experience with 30 Rock, Liz Lemon always kind of struck me as a female version of Michael Scott, from The Office. Like Michael, Liz is rude, childish, self-centered, and often feels attacked and unfairly imposed upon by her boss and colleagues. Liz gets much less sympathy than Michael does, however, which I can't help but feel is due to sexism. Many people (both in and out of 30 Rock's world) seem to believe that men can get away with acting inappropriately but women "should know better" somehow. – Debs2 years ago
I think a lot of what Debs is saying is right, but Liz is also much, much smarter than Michael Scott. 30 Rock's interest to me is the balancing act it performs: the show is definitely aware of the sexist dynamic that Debs is describing, but doesn't let Liz off the hook for her faults. That can be a controversial balancing act, because like Debs says, it does suggest Liz ought to know better in a way that Michael Scott isn't expected to, but I think the show is also plainly aware of that controversy, making it a more challenging show to grapple with. – Elliot Brunk2 years ago